When President Donald Trump canceled former President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran—and, more recently, ordered the U.S. State Department to add Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations—it was an ironic but redemptive moment for a Southern California psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher named Marv Treiger.
On June 11, 1964, the United States’ main ally against Soviet expansionism in the Middle East, the last Shah of Iran, addressed a graduation ceremony at the University of California–Los Angeles before receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, spoke of the need for social reforms in his country and the need to overcome “traditional” resistance. Like Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk before him, the Shah was attempting to modernize and partially secularize Iran in the face of opposition from both Islamic traditionalists and Soviet-backed communists.
The ceremony was marred by protests organized by the Iranian Students Association and an airplane flying overhead trailing an anti-Shah banner. The plane circled continuously, and the police were forced to deploy helicopters to force it down, but not before a “dogfight” ensued above the open-air ceremony.
For the pilot, the job was nonideological. He was paid in cash, and no one was ever held responsible for the stunt that made headlines across the nation.
At the time, Treiger was the leader of the Southern California Communist Party youth wing. His roommate was an Iranian student involved with the Iranian Students Association, which Treiger described as completely secular and Marxist-Leninist—not Islamic at all.
As the Shah’s visit to Los Angeles drew closer, the Iranian Students Association was increasingly active in organizing protests to mar the occasion and discredit their supposed anti-nationalist but definitely anti-communist enemy. Treiger turned his own mind to what he could do in his own small way to help bring down the anti-communist Shah.
Treiger hit on the idea of hiring a pilot to overfly the UCLA ceremony towing an anti-Shah message—but what message? Treiger discussed his idea with the leader of the Iranian Students Association, who suggested, “The Shah is a murderer.” Treiger wasn’t impressed; something more subtle was needed.
The Washington Post, long a tool of the left, had recently reported on rumors that the Shah’s twin sister, Ashraf Pahlavi, had been involved in the heroin trade.
Treiger had an idea. His message would be subtle, and blackly humorous. It would get people talking, and it would smear the Shah with one of the dirtiest slurs imaginable.
Treiger kept the project highly secret. He knew it would make headlines, and he didn’t want any more additions to what he rightly suspected was his already fat FBI file. Apart from the head of the Iranian Students Association, Treiger only cleared the project with one other person—the then-head of the California Communist Party, the diminutive and capable Dorothy Healey.
On the big day, Treiger paid the pilot in cash and went to the ceremony to watch the results. The stunt went off beautifully. The plane circled and circled and circled some more. Thousands at the event got to see Treiger’s message. Millions more saw it or heard about it in the media.
The Shah’s moment of glory was overshadowed by a massive banner bearing the words “Need a fix? See the Shah,” trailing from the plane. That got everybody talking. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who never had anything but respect for the Shah began to reconsider their positions.
The Shah would fall 15 years later in a communist-led rebellion that paved the way for today’s terrorist-backing Islamic Republic of Iran.
As weakened U.S. support for the Shah was critical to the success of the Iranian revolution, communist youth leader Treiger could claim at least a little credit for the Shah’s downfall.
Soon after this incident, Treiger left pro-Soviet communism for the much more dynamic pro-China Maoist movement. He would continue his journey as something of a “Forrest Gump” of the American left—always positioned at some critical juncture to make a difference.
Treiger was at the famous June 1969 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) conference in Chicago, where the largest leftist student mass organization split into two warring factions, breaking up the conference. Both factions were self-described as Marxist-Leninist. The split came after an inflammatory speech by Bernardine Dohrn calculated to divide SDS so that a purely communist, revolutionary faction would emerge.
Treiger, who had met Dohrn just days before, entered the adjoining hall where she was rehearsing her speech. He spent the next 45 minutes with her, helping her tweak her remarks and improve her delivery and the draft of the speech. Minutes later, she mounted the podium and blew the convention apart.
The following day, a second rump convention was held with about half the delegates, and it, in turn, split into two. Treiger’s name was advanced for the position of education secretary—one of the three key positions in the new organization. But the faction—which would soon morph into the terrorist Weather Underground—chose Bill Ayers for that post instead and, refusing to compromise, swept all the leadership positions for the new organization.
Later, Treiger would reflect that this was the luckiest day of his life.
Treiger would later room with another member of the losing SDS faction, Mike Klonsky, who would go on to found and lead the Communist Party USA (Marxist-Leninist), which for a time was the country’s largest pro-Beijing party. On one occasion, Klonsky was photographed sitting with Chairman Mao himself on a trip to China. The joke comrades asked each other was, “Who is that guy sitting next to Chairman Klonsky?”
Klonsky would eventually reconcile with Dohrn and her husband, Ayers, when they supported Obama’s bid to become an Illinois senator. Dohrn and Ayers launched Obama’s campaign from the living room of their home, and Klonsky maintained a website on Obama’s campaign site until it was scrubbed in April 2008.
As an aside, at one point, Treiger also roomed with Noel Ignatiev, one of the recognized founders of the Marxist concept of “white privilege.”
Treiger was also close for a while to another SDS faction leader named Bob Avakian—the future leader of the cultish Revolutionary Communist Party, known widely for the activities of their front group “Refuse Fascism.” Once, Treiger drove to Texas from California with Avakian to address a hostile crowd in Austin. The purpose this time was to unify the splintered movement. Avakian knew if his message was even slightly off-target, it could further split the rapidly fracturing Maoist movement.
Treiger suggested disarming the crowd with a little unexpected humor—Avakian, like most Maoist leaders, was normally, oh, so serious. Treiger wracked his brain to come up with a line that might do the trick when he would inevitably be heckled. So when the preachy and bombastic Avakian mounted the stage, he began his customary doctrinaire rap, and when a heckler chimed in, Avakian quickly turned to him, pointed, and said piercingly and authoritatively, “Quiet, or I will freeze your doo-doo pumping heart.” The crowd cracked up, settled down, and the breach was healed.
Treiger soon grew disgusted with Maoist factionalism and, after a period of study and reflection, became a Trotskyist—the ultimate sin at the time, worse than a choir girl running away to join the circus. Treiger’s group, the Communist Working Collective (all were in factories), fused with the very militant Spartacist League (which is still functioning to this day), and Treiger was soon co-editing the group’s revolutionary newspaper “The Worker’s Vanguard” and sitting on its Political Bureau.
This was Treiger’s final fling with Marxism-Leninism. By now in his early 30s, Treiger was “done with communism.” He walked completely away from the movement and never looked back.
Over the next few years, Treiger sustained himself as a professional poker player, while he followed a new passion—dance.
The Iranian story wasn’t quite over with, though.
With his Eskimo girlfriend, who was a stripper on Broadway in San Francisco, Treiger started an exotic dance act, performing for paying “society” audiences around the Bay Area.
One gig was particularly memorable. An Iranian group booked Treiger and his partner to put on a show for a social gathering. Clearly, this was a very Westernized Iranian gathering, although the previous act was a belly dancer. As Treiger danced for the enthralled crowd, he noticed a familiar face among the dignitaries present. It was the former president of the Iranian Students Association—one of the very few living souls who knew of Treiger’s propaganda attack on the Shah all those years before.
Slowly, Treiger danced closer and closer to his old comrade, who seemed completely unaware of who he was watching. Soon, Treiger was right in front of his former co-conspirator. With a sudden movement, Treiger twisted his body and placed his head in the Iranian’s lap, looking up into his face. The Iranian was shocked—and was completely stunned when Treiger looked him the eye and quietly whispered: “Need a fix? See the Shah.”
Treiger has evolved politically since those years. It took a while, but Treiger slowly became a moderate leftist, then was fully converted to conservatism after 9/11 and several years of study. Today, he is a staunch anti-communist.
He is active in the Republican Party grassroots and worked hard in all elections from the moment Obama was nominated, going from state to state. In 2016, he briefly supported Marco Rubio, then Donald Trump. To Treiger’s great joy, President Trump has helped to undo some of the damage that Treiger and his former comrades worked so hard to inflict on both Iran and the United States.
In a speech he gave to a little church in Rep. Jim Jordan’s district in Ohio, Treiger said that his greatest wish in life was to have licked more envelopes for conservative values than for the revolution before he died.
Spiritually, Treiger has evolved from being atheist to embracing Buddhist principles. He teaches Buddhist meditation and holds regular retreats and gatherings across California and Nevada.
He is also a huge fan of Shen Yun Performing Arts, the New York-based classical Chinese dance and music company that is revitalizing traditional Chinese culture. The Epoch Times and its sister media, NTD Television, have reported audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.
Treiger was interviewed after seeing Shen Yun in the Bay Area in 2013.
He described the performance as “bringing forth the teachings of awakening—in the most beautiful way, it showed how it’s been part of China forever.”
He also said that he would love to invite his friends to see the show “whatever their persuasion, whatever their religion.”
Right now, the world is in a life or death struggle between freedom and communism. While we must oppose totalitarianism with all our powers, we must always strive to be personally kind to our individual opponents.
We must fight tooth and nail but for freedom, but we must love our enemies—because one day, many of them will become our friends.
Trevor Loudon is an author, filmmaker, and public speaker from New Zealand. For more than 30 years, he has researched radical left, Marxist, and terrorist movements and their covert influence on mainstream politics.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.